Video Games and Mental Health: Friends or Enemies?

The increasing popularity of videogames nowadays comes together with a series of myths about how they influence the users’ mental health.

Most people tend to believe that the frequent use of video games affects the psyche of users by creating addiction or by likely exposure to violence or various emotional scenes, but the impact that video games have on mental health is the exact opposite of myths.

Benefits of using video games:

The use of video games have many benefits on users’ mental health, and those can help in relieving stress and keeping the mind going. Some of the main benefits are:

  • Mental stimulation – video games require a lot of thinking, so your brain will constantly work in order to achieve a higher level. The brain is not working the same for all video games, and the way of thinking depends a lot on the game requirements.
  • Feeling accomplished – Once you achieve all the goals and objectives of the game, you will feel a lot of satisfaction and will improve your well-being.
  • Mental health recovery – playing video games can help with trauma recovery, because they can act as distractions and keep your mind busy, far from overthinking painful things. Video games can also help with recovery after anxiety, depression, ADHD and PTSD.
  • Social interaction – multiplayer videogames are good for social interaction, connecting you with the other players, and giving you the opportunity to communicate and cooperate with them.
  • Emotional resilience – when you are playing video games, you know that you can’t win all the time. So you will get used to failure, even if it can be frustrating at first. This is very important for children to equip them for adulthood.

Video games and various pathologies

1. Autism

In the 2000’s, Victoria Tan University psychologist, James Tanaka developed a series of video games for children with autism, ”Let’s face it!”, to help them identify and interpret various facial expressions.

Exposing children with autism to video games that stimulate their attention,  contributes significantly to improving their social skills, flexibility and adaptability.This can increase their understadings of the world around them

There are several games designed to develop the ability to communicate and integrate the social life of children with autism, such as Bob’s Fish Shop, designed to help children with this condition integrate into the community they belong to.

2. Amblyopia (known as The Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia is a condition that develops early in life, in childhood and consists of impaired vision in one eye, or even in both.

Studies have shown that video games can help improve the quality of vision, distributive and visual attention, and stereoscopic vision. The latter refers to an individual’s ability to coordinate information taken by both eyes in order to see in depth.

3. Depression

Numerous studies show that action games are the ideal treatment for depression and can also improve the cognitive functions of healthy people.

A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2000) found that fast-paced, action-packed video games help reduce depressive symptoms and significantly contribute to treating this condition.

Video games and emotional learning

Video games like Minecraft, Portal 2 or The Legend of Zelda can help increase empathy, self management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. By playing videogames, you learn how to manage your decisions in order to accomplish the tasks and win. These kinds of actions are helping you also in real life.

We need to keep in mind that the wrong use of video games can affect mental health, like when too much running can cause  leg pain, or when too much eating makes you feel sick. The correct usage of video games contributes significantly to the relief of symptoms or even the treatment of mental illness.

Our project Gaming for skills offers you new perspectives on the use of video games in education. Check out the website for updated news and educational resources for the classroom.



Photo 1: ANYA KAMENETZ. (2019). Is “Gaming Disorder” An Illness? WHO Says Yes, Adding It To Its List Of Diseases. World Health Organisation. NPR.

Brennan, D. (2021, October 25). Are There Mental Health Benefits of Video games? WebMD.

Gerstein, J. (2013, February 11). Video games and Social Emotional Learning. User Generated Education.

Kühn, S.; Berna, F.; Lüdtke, T.; Gallinat, J.; and Moritz, S. (2018). Fighting Depression: Action Video Game Play May Reduce Rumination and Increase Subjective and Objective Cognition in Depressed Patients. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

Let’s Face It. (2013). Let’s Face It.

Schitea, R. (2019, July 23). CE SPUN STUDIILE: despre jocurile video și impactul asupra sănătății. Raportul de Garda.